Though getting a job in another country and moving there for a year may be a significant undertaking, I must say, I have certainly taken one of the easiest routes one can come up with. This company that I will be working for has the kinks pretty well worked out of this whole overseas recruiting thing. My job, my training, my health insurance, my apartment – all lined up by my employer. They advised me on what to bring, and how to prepare. They walked me through getting a visa, and will help me get a bank account, alien registration card, and cell phone on arrival. And now I’ve just learned, they will help me get a very cool, uniquely Japanese item called a Hanko.
A little background: As a nice pleasantry and part of the lead-up to my arrival, my branch school staff and I exchanged introduction letters. Perhaps this is Japanese custom when starting a new job – I’m not exactly sure – but it is a wonderful idea, as I am just that much more excited to go there now that I know a tiny bit about the people I will be working with. They hand-wrote me warm, welcoming little messages adorned with adorable little doodles of flags, flowers and smiley faces. One staff member included her email address, and it was from her that I learned about the hanko.
A hanko is basically a personalized stamp which all Japanese people must have for the signing of contracts, rental agreements, and other official documents. Where in the U.S. we would just sign our name, the Japanese stamp things with their hanko instead. It feels so much more lofty and elegant than a plain ol’ signature – like being a colonial dignitary or medieval king. The only clear drawback to this is that you don’t get the drama of melting a pool of candle wax to use it, nor do you get to send the documents back via a messenger on horseback. Still, I’m very excited about getting a hanko, as it is something outside the bounds of what you would experience as a typical tourist, and that is precisely the kind of experience I’m signing up for. Though I know anyone could stumble into a shop and have one made as a souvenir (or even order one online without setting foot in Japan), mine will actually serve an authentic purpose, which I am just a tiny bit thrilled about.